Who Will be the Next Generation of Arts Leaders

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His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He is considered this era’s Buddha and has been immortalized in statues, shrines and stamps.

Gutsy and diverse leaders like Joan of Arc, General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, and the Dalai Lama made history and were immortalized in paintings, stained-glass windows and other artwork.  Many business leaders over the past century have received similar attention, including Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for being the first woman to receive the Person of the Year award by TIME.

The current conundrum is who will be the next generation of great leaders, specifically arts leaders, in Kansas City? And will they be so visionary and impactful that they will be etched in stone?

“I am not afraid…I was born to do this.” ~ Joan of Arc

Take a look at any board and the diversity ratios tend to be more vanilla than Neapolitan. According to BoardSource, 80 percent of all board members are white; 52 percent are male; and 57 percent of all board members are 50 years of age or older.

Even in the arts, where nationality, gender, and other unique qualities tend to be embraced, cultural diversity remains noticeably low. The lack of gender, cultural and age diversity in arts leadership is a challenge that hundreds of arts groups struggle with and have asked ArtsKC – Regional Arts Council for assistance in resolving.

To harvest this next generation of arts leaders, ArtsKC recently developed a four-part Arts Leadership Series, which began this January and concludes in May. The series aims to equip millennials, minorities and diverse arts advocates with the knowledge to step into arts leadership positions armed to make immediate contributions.

“We’re proud to be collaborating with dozens of local arts leaders to offer this inaugural Arts Leadership Series so people of all walks of life can use their voice and perspective to benefit committees and boards in the arts,” said Godfrey Riddle, Arts Leadership series founder and ArtsKC development manager.

Karen Christiansen, COO of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, CiCi Rojas, Executive Director of the Central Exchange, and Tyrone Aiken, Chief Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey are three of 14 nonprofit leaders who are speaking in the series.  The four-part series concludes on May 17 with ArtsKC’s sixth annual matchmaking event, which has shown success moving the needle on cultural, gender, and age diversity here in Kansas City, says Riddle.

Creating organizational diversity takes activism as well as intention. ArtsKC actively recruits diverse staff and board leaders year round. “We’re proud to have terrific gender and cultural representation of the community on our staff and board,” says ArtsKC Board Chair Brad Douglas. “We are committed to diversity in our people because it enriches our programming in the arts throughout the region.”

“All for one; one for all.” ~ Thomas-Alexandre Dumas

The Arts Leadership Series is being generously supported by the Missouri Arts Council, American Century, the Roasterie and the UMKC Department of Public Affairs.

–Brenda Celevenger

Brenda Clevenger  is a gender equality advocate and the director of communications and marketing for ArtsKC – Regional Arts Council. To participate in the remaining Arts Leadership Series roundtables and matchmaking event, contact Godfrey Riddle at riddle@artskc.org or visit www.ArtsKC.org/leadership.  To learn about nonprofit board member openings, visit www.npconnect.org and look under Boardlink.

About The Author: Contributing Writer

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